I have spent the last day and a half taking part in a rather compressed training course explaining the intricacies of the Webtrends web analytics tool.
When I started out working on the web backs in the mists of time (1998ish) Webtrends were already the major player in the pretty new market for web analytics tools. Back then it was all based on weblog (the other kind) analysis and was a pretty slow and painful process but their software at least lessened the pain a little.
In the years since I have dipped in and out of the software – it was never cheap and so more than once I saw it replaced with open source alternatives but it was all quite limited and was seen as a bit of a dark art.
When Google opened up their Analytics product publicly sometime in 2006 I, and pretty much everyone I know, made the shift pretty much immediately. There is no doubt the fact it was free was a major factor in this but also because it felt streets ahead to most of us using it.
I had become pretty competent, if far from expert, with GA and have been preaching the importance of using data for decision making pretty consistently for years.
So when I started at this job I was surprised to find Webtrends still being used (and not the latest version either) and was initially quite dismissive. The last couple of days training have made me see the product in a new light and I am willing to accept that many of the problems I have with our data is down to our implementation rather than the tool.
It seems like it has the functionality to rival the power of GA but the version we are working with (9) suffers from some pretty horrendous usability issues and it certainly requires a pretty serious grounding in the product before you can coax it in to doing anything clever – nine hours over two days and I barely feel like I scratched the surface. That surface did give me a *much* better idea of what was possible though and I have jotted down a list of new reports I am going to look into running that will give us a much more accurate picture of whether the work we are doing is having any kind of success and should nicely support the KPIs we are currently drafting.
Also the brief view of the latest version of Webtrends(10) makes me wonder why the heck we haven’t already upgraded – there is clearly some work required to do that but from a user interface point of view alone it seems worth the effort let alone the additional functionality. It also seems like version 10 might have better API access which might be important if we follow the example of the GOV.UK Performance Platform work.
Anyway it has turned out to be a worthwhile use of my time, has sparked some useful thoughts and gave me the opportunity to visit the new campus of my alma mater 🙂